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Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger, Editors
A Study in Sherlock

Bantam / Random House
US First Edition Trade Paperback
ISBN 978-0-812-98246-6
Publication Date: 10-25-2011
386 Pages; $15
Date Reviewed: 01-22-2012
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2012

Index:  Mystery  Fantasy

As the 21st century evolves into an electronic version of the Victorian era, it comes as no surprise that Sherlock Holmes remains as popular and as relevant as ever. Doyle's original stories have aged well. They're still fresh and exciting, written with verve and nerve. The problem is that Doyle himself only authored sixty works, and his story-hungry future cannot seem to get enough of the character.

But by now Holmes has become something more than a mere character; he's become an archetype and an inspiration. The canon has inspired Leslie S. Klinger's 'New Annotated Sherlock Holmes,' which has set the standard for Holmesian scholarship. Laurie R. King's Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes novels represent the best fiction that is both inspired by the Holmes canon and includes Holmes himself. After serving on a panel at Left Coast Crime, these two talents decided to create an anthology that spoke to the way Holmes as archetype and character has inspired the mystery genre as a whole. And, while one could readily wall one's self in for a long winter using only Holmesian anthologies as bricks, their collection 'A Study in Sherlock' lives up to the inspiration.

By and large, the stories within are truly inspired, and inspired by Holmes, even if the man himself doesn't show up in every work. The result is a collection that is accessible to the Holmes novice, thrilling for the aficionado and entertaining through and through. But beyond the quality of the book as an entertainment, 'A Study in Sherlock' provides readers with a thought-provoking meditation on the cultural import and impact of the Great Detective. Reading these works, one can't but help thinking about the myriad ways that a single fictional character informs our vision of the modern world.

All this cogitation is inspired by the stories, and is likely to come after the fact. While the stories are all inspired by Doyle's creation, the variety of fiction here is itself a tribute the power of Holmes. The closest to Doyle's work itself is probably Thomas Perry's "The Startling Events in the Electrified City," but even there you're getting an alternate history. Tony Broadbent's brilliant "As to 'An Exact Knowledge of London'" brings Holmes up-to-date with the same muscular power one finds in Doyle. On the other hand, Neil Gaiman's "Of Death and Honey" explores the Holmes canon with an eye for the fantastic and the delicate skill to make it work. Laura Lippman and Jacqueline Winspear both turn in works of literary fiction that explore Holmes and youth. Charles Todd plays a meta-fictional hand with "The Case That Holmes Lost," while Colin Cotterill's hilarious graphic story, "The Mysterious Case of the Unwritten Short Story" undermines everything we expect in a Holmes story, but still fits perfectly. Plus, it is a hoot to see a graphic story in a Holmes anthology. These are just the easiest stories to talk about without giving away the house. 'A Study in Sherlock' is a study in quality, though each reader will have his or her own favorites, depending on the approach to the inspiration.

Reading the whole book, however, helps to put everything in perspective. Indeed, perspective is a tool that several writers use to great advantage. But as we see Holmes revised, re-written and even re-tweeted, the impact of the original becomes clearer. Reading these, you can take a fresh set of eyes back to the original and enjoy them again; and after that, come back to this volume, or, the sequel, already happily in the works. And, when the difference between the 21st century and the Victorian era is indistinguishable, because all of our high-tech electronic gadgetry has been undermined by a combination computer viruses and global climate change, the tattered trade paperbacks will still be readable. And the ever-rational Holmes with his objective mindset may prove a useful inspiration to those who inhabit such a world.

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